Born in Thorup, Denmark, in October 1902, Joseph Daniel Jensen arrived in New Zealand in 1915 aboard the SS Rimutaka with his family of assisted immigrants. He spent his early years at Thames as a commercial fisherman.
Joe, as he was known, had no English on his arrival, but by the time of his entry into the Bible Training Institute (BTI) he was proficient. He was at BTI from 1926-27 and then Baptist College 1929-31. Following graduation he married Mabel Brown.
Their first ministry was the Ponsonby Church 1931-35, followed by Mt Eden 1935-40, Whangarei 1940-44, Colombo Street 1944-47, Nelson 1947-53, Avondale 1953-59 and Te Awamutu 1959-63. He retired to Whangarei and died in October 1970, survived by his wife and two children.
Joe’s military career was paralleled by a number of our ministers during World War Two. These were men who because of age, fitness, or the lack of opportunity to serve in the 2nd NZEF, were chaplains in military camps to men under training.
In September 1942, Joe marched in to Waitangi as Chaplain IV Class to the 4th North Auckland Regiment. In January 1943 he marched out to Area 3 pool and returned to his civil occupation after three months of military service.
Joe was allotted a batman, a substantial Maori by the name of Mate Whitelaw.
“I am not sure what run-of-the-mill duties my father allocated to Mate,” says his son, Peter Jensen, “but as my father treated his entire stay in military camp as a paid holiday, Mate would have been under employed – except for one thing. Joe was a fisherman for seven years before training another six to become a Minister. He was able to find a dinghy in the Waitangi area that he could use, and soon made a long line with several hundred hooks.
“With Mate the batman at the oars, they would row out into the Bay of Islands and catch enough fish to feed all the troops.
“He trained with his troops and went on route march with them. What they did, he did. He shared his life with them and he would share his faith with them also.”
Joe served during 1942, the darkest year of the war. Joe would think of “his boys” as they proceeded overseas, many to die, become POWs, or return maimed. A number of “his boys” were absorbed as reinforcements to A company “Gum diggers” 28 Maori Battalion.
When Joe passed away in 1970, L.A. North wrote in the NZ Baptist: “Practically all his days he was a fisherman, from his time at Thames when he fished the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, and then through all the years of his manhood in the waters of human experience as a fisher of men for Christ’s sake.”